Osteoarthritis in the Knee
Osteoarthritis is the common form of arthritis and usually occurs with wear and tear of the joints. The osteoarthritis of the knee begins with the gradual deterioration of cartilage. Without the protecting cartilage, the bones begin to rub together, causing pain, loss of mobility and deformity. Articular cartilage is a firm rubbery protein material covering the end of a bone. It acts as a cushion or shock absorber between the bones. As the articular cartilage breaks down, this cushion is lost, resulting in the grinding of bones together. The knee is the largest weight-bearing joint in the body and the most vulnerable to be affected by osteoarthritis. This disease often affects both the knees once the patient reaches the late 50s.
Incidence and Prevalence
Osteoarthritis of the knee is one of the five leading causes of disability among elderly men and women. Also known as the degenerative joint disease, it affects more than 15 million patients in America. Research also shows that osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee affects 12% of the US population in the age group 25-75. Osteoarthritis of the knee is more common in women than it is in men. Obesity and having osteoarthritis of the hand with nodes increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee in women.
Difficulty in movement and performing everyday activities is the most prominent symptom of the development of osteoarthritis of the knee. Here we list some of the other significant symptoms of the OA of the knee.
- Stiffness and swelling in the joint
- Difficulty in walking
- Pain while climbing stairs
- Discomfort when sitting in or getting up from a chair
OA of Knee – Risk Factors
A series of risk factors increase the chances of an individual being affected by the osteoarthritis of the knee. Here we list the main amongst them. Though the existence of these might always mean that the individual will develop the OA of the knee, yet the chances of the disorder occurring are increased to quite an extent.
- Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI)
- Irritation of an un-repaired injury
- High impact sports
- Other illnesses (repeated episodes of gout, septic arthritis, metabolic disorders etc.)
In addition, a previous injury or operation may cause osteoarthritis in one of the knees.
Treatment of OA of the knee focuses on reducing pain and improving mobility. In this section, we have discussed some of the most common form of medication and treatment options available for relief from osteoarthritis of the knee.
Hyalgan is a drug administered by injection to obtain relief from the pain of the knee osteoarthritis. In 1997, the FDA approved this drug for treating knee osteoarthritis in patients who failed to respond to conservative non-pharmacologic therapy and simple analgesics, such as acetaminophen. This form of treatment comprises of five injections, administered directly into the knee, over a period of 5 weeks. This treatment is likely to relieve pain in the majority of patients for 12 months without the side effects usually accompanying the use of NSAIDs. Injections of glucocorticoids are also recommended for the purpose.
In certain cases, individuals affected with the osteoarthritis of the knee are also advised to make use of appliances for support and relief from symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. Such devices include braces, insoles and wedges that reduce the load on the affected portion.
Apart from drugs like Hyalgan, patients affected by the osteoarthritis of the knee are also advised to take aspirin or acetaminophen. Anti-inflammatory drugs should be taken only as prescribed and self-medication should generally be avoided. In the early stages of osteoarthritis of the knee, analgesics such as Tylenol and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen often provide sufficient relief.
In extreme cases, surgical options are resorted to for the cure of osteoarthritis of the knee. The two main options include:
- Osteotomy – Correction of malalignment
- Arthroplasty – Total or partial knee replacement
Other remedies include:
- Heat and cold for temporary pain relief
- Exercise, to restore joint movement and strengthen the knee
- Losing weight to reduce wear and stress on the joint
If not treated properly and in time, osteoarthritis of the knee can lead to severe disability and impairment of function.